Sweeping mountain vistas and rainforest experiences
Living in Brisbane, we have so many amazing options when it comes to day trips to escape the city. I suppose this explains the reason that I have only recently discovered the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.
The jewel in the hinterland crown has to be the Glass House Mountains. Named by Lieutenant James Cook (later promoted to Captain) in 1770 as they reminded him of the smoke stacks of glass factories near his home in Yorkshire. There are eleven mountain peaks in total, spread around the national park from Beerburrum in the south, north to Mooloolah, west to Peachester and east to the Bruce Highway. For those who like details, the mountains names and heights are Mount Beerburrum (278m), Mount Beerwah (556m), Mount Coochin (235m), Mount Coonowrin (377m), Mount Elimbah (129m), Mount Ngungun (253m), Mount Tibberoowuccum (220m), Mount Tibrogargan (364m), Mount Tunbubudla (293)m, Wild Horse Mountain (123m), and Mount Miketeebumulgrai (199m)
At little over an hour from Brisbane city, the most logical location to start a day trip, or a weekend in this amazing natural landscape would be to visit the Glass House Mountains lookout. The sweeping vistas from this lookout provide an excellent location for budding photographers at dawn if you can manage the early start to your day! This lookout is clearly signed from Steve Irwin Way and is a pleasant 10km drive from the turn-off.
For those who have opted for a day trip, I would recommend a quick stop at the tiny town of Glass House Mountains before proceeding on your tour. There is a small supermarket here, as well as a little coffee shop for recharging your early morning batteries! From this stop (if you chose to take a break) continue north on Old Gympie Road towards Landsborough. You can of course take Steve Irwin Way, although I recommend using Old Gympie Road for two reasons – the drive through the trees is far more picturesque, and if you take Steve Irwin Way you have to explain to the kids why you aren't going to Australia Zoo! At the roundabout in Landsborough, turn left and begin the drive up onto the top of the mountains towards Montville.
The next recommended stop is Mary Cairncross Park. The turn to the lookout is signposted at 8kms after the roundabout in Landsborough. The park is a mere 1.5Km along this road. Don't despair when you arrive that the views to the mountains is hidden by trees. Pull up in the car park and walk across the road (watch for traffic) to the lookout viewing pad. The view from here is truly spectacular and well worth the small detour. Depending on your arrival time, this park would be a nice place for lunch, although if you can delay this then the next stop (on my trip route anyway) is even better.
Drive back to the main road from Mary Cairncross Park and turn left towards Montville. As the driver don't allow yourself to be distracted by the incredible views on both sides for the next 12km or so! Your passengers are in for a treat though, as the road snakes its way along the very narrow ridge all the way into Montville, with views to the East all the way to the ocean, and views to the West over the mountain valleys and farmland.
Once you arrive in Montville, you will most likely be distracted somewhat by the plethora of shopping experiences on hand. Every taste and budget is accounted for here, from quaint old-school stores through to fine dining options. My choice, however, is to continue through town to the turn off to Kondalilla Falls to get some exercise before taking in all that Montville has to offer. Two kilometres north of Montville is the turn to the left to the falls. From there it is less than a kilometre to the falls carpark, and your rainforest experience.
The walking track winds its way down to the picnic area, which is set amongst the trees and would be my pick for a lunch location. Have a bite to eat, and then get your walking shoes on and start towards the falls. The walk to the top of the falls (and a truly glorious swimming hole for the warmer months) is quite easy, at 1.3Kms ending in about 100 stairs down to the rock pool at the top of the falls. The views across the valley from here are incredible, and the pools themselves would be very inviting on a hot day. The main falls are 80m high, so viewing them from below is definitely recommended. If you don't want to walk down the steps to the very bottom there is a good viewing platform about two-thirds of the way down.
If you are keen to see the falls from below, there are approximately 150 stairs winding their way down the mountainside to the bottom. Consider your fitness levels, as the climb back up is a little challenging (to those of us of mediocre fitness anyway!) There are two options from the bottom: continue along the walking trail from the bottom which rejoins the main track from the other side of the falls; or walk back up the stairs which you have just descended. The total distance for the entire loop circuit is 4.7Kms, with just as many stairs to navigate. To retrace your path is almost the same distance, so the decision is yours alone. Some stairs near the bottom are covered in moss, which lends a mysterious air to the walk down, and those alone make the air feel cooler after all those steps down.
At the bottom of the falls, there is a cave overhang which is like a natural fernery which is well worth exploring. Take a break from the walk to sit and listen to the water and be mesmerised by the water cascading down the rocks. Gazing into the crystal clear pools at the bottom of the falls and take in the wonder of nature. It's places like this that make you appreciate what a beautiful part of the world we live in. Just remember to leave nothing but footprints.
Once you have completed the falls walking track and taken in the majestic scenery, Montville awaits. The township tends to be really busy on weekends but is well worth wandering around for that special souvenier from your day. Another place well worth a stop is the Maleny Cheese Factory 11kms south from Montville. The cheese on offer ranges from basic cheddars through to buffalo and camel milk cheese, through to locally produced yoghurt as well. There are some amazing flavours to be found here, so the stop is worth it! Along your trip, there are many other interesting little country shops and stops, so if you have time left your options are many and varied.
Don't forget to keep an eye out for the little things of beauty along the way too. Wild flowers, interesting mushrooms, insects, etc. There are so many tiny things that we often miss with our busy lifestyles - slow down and enjoy the outdoors!
For those who are keen to stay a little longer, the Glasshouse Mountain region is far enough away from the bright lights of the city to provide some truly amazing views of the night sky. Even if you are not into photography, just being able to see so many stars and the milky way stretching across the sky is an amazing experience. Find a quiet spot, lay back and see how many shooting stars you can spot! If you include this in your itinerary, be sure to take warm clothes in the cooler months, as it tends to get a little chilly after dark!
No matter what you plan to do on your journey into the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, I'm sure that once you have visited, you will more than likely find yourself drawn back to this region again and again, to take in everything on offer.